In the mid 1800s a polished stone axe was discovered at Brierlow. It was made around 5,000 years ago (Neolithic). Many finely polished axe heads have been found in the Peak District – they are often made from non-local stones from sources such as Wales, Cornwall, the Lake District and even Northern Ireland.
But the axe found here, pictured above, is from a much more distance source. Jadeite doesn’t occur naturally in Britain The stone from which this tool was made is found in the Italian Alps, almost 700 miles away.
The distance between here and the source of the stone demonstrates the extent of trade routes during the stone age, along which materials, objects, and ideas spread throughout Europe.
Polished stone axes began to appear around 6,000 years ago during the Early Neolithic. Many axes, like this one, are found long distances from their place of origin. They were made to extremely high standards and were cherished, traded and used over many generations. Some axes are found in near perfect condition, which has led some to suggest that they had a ceremonial rather than practical purpose. However it would have been necessary to polish and maintain an axe throughout its working life to keep it sharp and in good condition.
Jadeite would have been quarried in inaccessible, mountain conditions. Turning a piece of stone into an axe was also hard work. Jadeite is harder than a steel blade (6.5-7.0 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness), and it is estimated that a highly polished axe could have taken up to 1,000 hours to make. Recent attempts to reproduce such axe heads have often resorted to modern grinding methods.